DAY FIFTY of 50-Day Spiritual Journey

Today is our final day on this 50-day journey! Amen, praise the Lord, Hallelujah (you’re probably thinking). If you’ve actually come this far in doing this daily devotional, first let me say that as pastor I am very thankful for your steadfastness and your dedication and your desire to grow in Christ.

I hope this has been a key turning point in your life and that God has truly given you insight from His Word of both who you are in Him and what He demands from you in obedience.

What’s the end vision that I as your pastor have for our church family?  I desire to see God create a gospel-centered culture where everyone connected with Emmanuel is being conformed to the image of Christ through an intentional disciple-making process.

Who we are comes before what we do. Our identity comes before obedience and yet we are called to experience both.

We are called to live as disciples who fulfill God’s Great Commission of going, baptizing and teaching.

We are discontent with the status quo of a church culture where all we experience is a Bible study class with no real transformation. We don’t just want information but transformation.

We want to both know and actually obey the Word of God.

We want to consistently live out the gospel “one another’s”.

We want to be challenged to lives as missionaries in our culture

We want to see leaders reproducing leaders.

This can most effectively happen in a disciple-making small group.

But how does this happen without the sovereign power of a mighty God? We can’t force God’s hand to do this! We can’t manipulate God! He is not obligated to do any of this for us!

And yet as we have seen over these past weeks through the Scriptures, that this vision of being a disciple-making church comes directly from the pages of the Bible.  It is God’s vision for His people.

So the most important attitude we can have as we move forward as a church is this…humble yet confident desperation.

Humble because God owes us nothing and we are totally dependent on Him.  Confident because we serve a magnificent God who can do all things. Desperation because we cannot do this in and of ourselves. This is a quantum leap in the way we think about church life and our individual discipleship.

Only God in His sovereign grace and power can fulfill this vision.

Read Daniel 9:3-4 and then 17-19

This is another recorded prayer in Scripture which gives us great insight into how we ought to pray. Daniel is desperate for God to move and you can hear the passion in his voice.

He is fasting, praying, weeping, and earnestly confessing sin and calling upon his Sovereign God.

It sounds like Daniel is actually commanding God to act! He is praying very boldly.

Can we ask boldly? Can we come with anguish and want God to work quickly? Can we come to our Heavenly Father with persistence and want Him to move?

Yes, but the answer comes in verse 18 when we adopt the proper perspective about God and the proper perspective about us as His creation.

Notice that Daniel says that he is not praying and asking these things because of his righteousness. In other words, Daniel is saying to God:  I don’t bring anything to the table. I’m not worthy for you to even answer these requests. God, I cannot manipulate you. I cannot demand you. I cannot somehow twist your arm to respond. In fact, I don’t even deserve an answer from you because the only thing I contribute to this equation is my weakness, sin, and total dependence on you. I can offer you nothing. I cannot offer you my righteousness.
So the basis for Daniel’s prayer is not his impeccable character or even his faithfulness or obedience or steadfastness or his stellar record as God’s man in Babylon. We can’t appeal to our resume!

So then, what is the basis for this prayer and for all prayer as a matter of fact?

The basis for it all is on God’s great mercy.God is not obligated to answer. God is not obligated to move and act. God owes us nothing. But because of His great mercy, and because He is a wonderful heavenly Father, He will give us what is best.

Notice I didn’t say He will give us what we want. But He will give us what is best.

Here’s the bottom line when it comes to praying and asking God to move and to act and to answer. Here’s what we should say after we’ve poured our hearts out to God.

Father, whatever will bring you the most glory and whatever will conform me the most to Your Son Jesus, that is what I want.  Is that what you want? Can we all honestly say from the depths of our hearts that we desire God’s glory over all and that whatever happens to us we want to be conformed to the image of Jesus?

I want to end where we started by reading our two key Scriptures.
Read Romans 8:29 and 2 Corinthians 3:18

As you look back over these past 50 days, do you begin to see this process of transformation happening in your life? Is God doing a deep work in your soul to show you more of Himself? Can you truly say that you have been looking more and more like Jesus?

This is just the beginning. A 50-day spiritual journey is just a tool to get you heading in the right direction. Where you go from here will truly determine your level of growth and obedience.

Who are we?

We are chosen, loved, and accepted in the Father, purchased, forgiven, and righteous in the Son, and indwelt, empowered and sanctified by the Spirit.
We in turn love and seek the glory of God above all things.

We in turn treasure and submit to Jesus in all things.

We in turn wholly depend on the Holy Spirit for all things.

As disciples, we are marked by being:

  • Sent out as missionaries into world
  • Baptized into a family of believers
  • Learning the Word of God so that we can obey

And the best context for us to do this is in a disciple-making small group where we can actually:

  • Know and obey the Word of God
  • Practice the gospel “one another’s”
  • Declare the gospel as missionaries
  •  Reproduce leaders

So that the end vision would look like this: A gospel-centered culture where every single person connected to Emmanuel Baptist Church would be conformed to the image of Christ through an intentional disciple-making process.

Read Ephesians 3:20-21

May this be your individual prayer as you continue to grow in Christ and may this be our corporate prayer as a church family as we continue to seek God’s will for our future.

To Our Father in Heaven,

We bow before your throne in humble adoration and give you all praise and glory.  We know that you are able to do more than we can ask and think because of Your great power at work in our lives. We want you to receive all the glory in our church as we live out our identity in Christ and our obedience to Christ. May you truly make us look more and more like Jesus every single day!

FOR YOUR GLORY ALONE,

AMEN!!

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DAY FORTY NINE of 50-Day Spiritual Journey

Read Acts 9:26-31

This story follows Paul’s dramatic salvation on the road to Damascus. Before his conversion, he was a violent persecutor of Christians and an angry and prideful man.  Many in the church in Jerusalem were questioning whether Paul had truly experienced a transformation by sovereign grace.

God used Barnabas—the Son of Encouragement—to welcome Paul into the life of the church.  Paul needed encouragement and training and mentoring.  Barnabas could have totally disregarded Paul as a hopeless cause and not have invested in him. How things would have been different in Acts if this happened.  Yet, Barnabas was obedient to the call to make disciples and encourage and practiced the “one another’s” and sought to reproduce leaders.

Notice what happens in a church when there is disciple-making, encouragement, and training of new leaders? We see the answer in verse 31.

The church was being built up. It was being strengthened and it was marked by holiness and worship and the power and presence of the Holy Sprit and numerical growth.  It experienced the blessing and favor of the Lord.

Do you see how it all flows together? When we have a context or an environment where everyone connected to Emmanuel can know and obey the Word of God, and then in turn consistently practice the gospel “one another’s” and then be encouraged to live out their faith as a missionary, then more and more disciples are being trained to be leaders who in turn train more and more disciples to be leaders and who in turn train more and more disciples to become leaders.

Again the best context for this to happen is in a disciple-making small group where you can share life with other believers who can hold you accountable, pray for you, love and encourage you, challenge you, and strengthen you.

Read 2 Timothy 2:1-2

Paul charges Timothy to entrust faithful men who would in turn teach others to become passionate followers of Jesus. Do you see four generations in this disciple-making process?

Where does it start? With Paul. And then it flows to Timothy and then it flows to faithful men and then it flows to others and eventually the gospel has come down to us because someone taught us the truth of God’s Word.

What we need in Emmanuel is faithful people who can be entrusted with the truth of God’s Word to teach, train, equip, and encourage others in their journey to look more like Jesus.
The disciple-making process never ends. Disciples are always being trained to make new disciples who in turn make new disciples.

But never forget the source or motivation for disciple-making in the life of the church. Look closely at verse 1.

We are strengthened in God’s grace through Jesus Christ.  It all comes again from our identity in Jesus and what He has done for us and through us. We are chosen, loved, accepted in the Father.  We are purchased, forgiven, and righteous in the Son. We are indwelt, empowered, and sanctified by the Spirit.

God’s grace has made us new creations in Christ and we have a new identity and a new source of strength to obey Him—grace!!
How we desperately need the gospel of grace to fulfill this vision of a gospel-centered culture where every single person connected to Emmanuel is being conformed to the image of Christ through an intentional disciple-making process.

Are you ready for it!! Have you caught the vision? Are you a faithful disciple who can be entrusted with the truth of God’s Word to train and equip others who in turn can train and equip others?

Father in heaven,

Thank you that a faithful believer shared the gospel with me and taught me Your Word. I’m thankful for the Barnabas’s you’ve put in my life who have mentored me and challenged me and encouraged me. May I be a Barnabas to others. Lord I want to continue to live in your grace and be joyful in my identity! I am ready for whatever You have ordained to come next for me in my life! I submit to Your Lordship and want to be a part of a church that takes seriously an intentional disciple-making process!

In Jesus’ name,

Amen

DAY FORTY EIGHT of 50-Day Spiritual Journey

In many churches and organizations there is a leadership vacuum. I pray that Emmanuel is a greenhouse where new leaders are being birthed, nurtured, and sent out all the time. I pray that we are all being fully trained and equipped to display obedient lives of worship and service that glorify God.

Read Titus 2:1-6

Paul is writing to a pastor named Titus and he gives him some instructions on how the different generations in the church interact with one another.

Older men are to be examples of godliness to the younger men. Older women are to train the younger woman how to be godly wives and mothers.

In other words, a healthy church practices intergenerational mentoring.  Maybe you’ve never been trained or taught be an older, wiser Christian on how to grow in your faith? Maybe you are an older, wiser Christian who needs to pass down what you’ve learned to the younger generation.

In a disciple-making small group, intergenerational mentoring can occur where new leaders are being produced on a continual basis.

Where else can you talk openly about issues you struggle with or ask questions to others who may be further along on the journey? A disciple-making small group should be safe place where those who struggle gain strength from those who are stronger in the faith.

Future elders, deacons, missionaries, church planters, and ministry leaders are in our church just waiting for someone to invest in them and help them grow in Christ.

Who in your life right now can you be a mentor to? Who in your life right now could mentor you? Who would you be willing to take a risk and ask if they could disciple you? Ask God to begin to show you how valuable intergenerational disciple-making can be.

Heavenly Father,

Thank you that we have a mutli-generational church. I thank you for all of those you’ve place to be my family here at Emmanuel. I need their wisdom and knowledge. Or maybe I need to pass my wisdom and knowledge down to the next generation. Give me wisdom to see how this would work. I continue to pray that Emmanuel would be faithful in reproducing leaders who are faithful and obedient to You!

In Jesus Name,

Amen

DAY FORTY SEVEN of 50-Day Spiritual Journey

Healthy things grow! As a believer in Jesus we are in this transformation process of understanding our identity in Him and obedience to Him. As pastor, my vision is that God would produce a gospel-centered culture where everyone connected with Emmanuel would be conformed to the image of Christ in an intentional disciple-making process.

This intentional disciple-making process is a disciple-making small group. In these groups, we want you to know and obey the Bible, practice the gospel “one another’s”, declare the gospel as a missionary, and finally, to reproduce leaders.

Have you ever thought of yourself as a leader? Have you ever wondered how a church produces new leadership? Where do we find our next elders, deacons, Bible study leaders, children’s workers, and every other leadership position in our church?

Also, leadership in our church is more than just the pastoral staff and elders. Leaders are those whom God has raised up to take responsibility for an area of ministry. And sometimes God places a new ministry upon a person’s’ heart and they start it from scratch.  Also, what happens when a person moves out of the area that was responsibly for a ministry? How do we replace him or her with a qualified leader?

The health of the church rises and falls on leadership.

One of the most effective contexts and environments to train, equip, and raise up new leaders in all areas of our church is through a disciple-making small group.

In order for the disciple-making process to be fulfilled and new groups to be formed to reach more people, we will need called and qualified leaders who uphold the Biblical standards of spiritual leadership. God most often qualifies the called through intentional training, mentoring and coaching by an existing leader.

Read Luke 6:39-40

Notice that Jesus puts an emphasis on a disciple being fully trained.  This word “fully trained” is a very interesting word in the original language. It means “strengthened, established, matured, or complete”.

In other words, in light of what we have been exploring these past weeks of growing to be conformed to the image of Christ as a mature disciple, this word means that Jesus wants us to be strengthened, trained, and equipped for ministry.

Where else does this word “fully trained” show up in the Bible?

Read Ephesians 4:12

As pastor, one of my main goals is to train and equip you for works of ministry so that you in turn can become a competent, trained, encouraged, and qualified leader! The word “equip” here is the same word used earlier for “fully trained”.

Our church needs to be full of disciples who are “equipped” and “fully trained” to know and obey God’s Word, practice the gospel “one another’s” and declare the gospel as missionaries who in turn lead others to do the same.

This is what reproducing leaders is all about and the best context to do this is in a disciple-making small group.

Read 1 Thessalonians 3:10

The word Paul uses for “supply” is the same word used above for “fully trained” or “equipped”. My passion as your pastor is to see our church full of obedient disciples who are being equipped and supplied with the training they need to live a life that glorifies Jesus.

If we are lacking in areas, as Paul says, we need to have a context or environment where God can supply those areas with training and equipping so that new leaders can be reproducing new leaders who reproduce new leaders and on and on and on!

Read 1 Peter 5:10

The first word in this list from Peter translated “restore” is again the same word we’ve been studying so far today. God Himself will equip, train, and supply us withal that we need to grow in Christ.

And God most often does that through others—teachers, pastors, friends, and mentors.  God will bring mentors into our lives that can help us be fully trained.

I envision a day at Emmanuel where everyone connected to our church is being fully trained and equipped through a disciple-making small group to have a gospel impact on this world and where they are obeying Jesus through a transformed life of service to Him.

Do you want to be trained? Do you want more than just “head knowledge” as important as that is? Do you want to be equipped and mentored in your personal walk with Jesus? Do you want to see healthy, vibrant, qualified and trained leaders being reproduced in our church?  I hope you do!!
Spend some time praying to that end.

Lord,

You desire for me as your disciple to be fully trained. I know you’ve placed spiritual leaders in my life to equip me for works of ministry. I don’t’ want to be lacking in any area. I desire to see new leadership produced and reproduced in our church. Maybe you’re calling me to be one of those future leaders? Begin to soften my heart now for where You are calling me to serve!  I desperately need you!

Amen

DAY FORTY SIX of 50-Day Spiritual Journey

Read Colossians 4:2-6

Paul gives THREE overarching commands in this text which help us to personally and practically live a missional lifestyle.

First of all, living a missional lifestyle involves constant praying for opportunities to share the gospel clearly with lost people.

In other words, we are to be constantly, continually devoting ourselves and being strong in prayer and never give up.

Read Romans 12:12

1 Thessalonians 5:17

All throughout the Scriptures, we are commanded to be a people whose lifestyle is marked by constant, fervent, earnest prayer.

Charles Spurgeon tells a story of a man he knew who told him that he had been praying for 20 years for the salvation of his friend and that God hadn’t saved him yet. He was complaining to Spurgeon that his prayers didn’t work. And Spurgeon simply asked him, “Have you spoken to your friend personally about salvation? Have you told him that you are concerned for his soul and have been praying for him for 20 years? The man sheepishly said he hadn’t done that. Spurgeon then told him this: Suppose I were to pray that it might be a good harvest over in that field and yet for 20 years I did not sow any corn there. Would I expect a harvest? Would God answer my prayer? Probably not.

Secondly, living a missional lifestyle involves capturing the unique moments God gives you to engage lost people.

In verse 5, Paul gives us the second command. He commands us to keep on continually and constantly walking in a manner that shows wisdom toward outsiders. “Who are the outsiders?”

These are basically non-Christians. Paul is addressing how we act toward those who are lost and he tells us to make the most of our time.

The word here is literally “redeem” the time. If you were in the marketplace in ancient Greece at this time you would buy up things in the market.

The word picture here is to buy up intensively. To snap up every opportunity. To make the most use of the time.

Read Ephesians 5:15-16

The word Paul uses for “time” here is “kairos”—this is a unique word for time. It means a special opportunity. An opportune moment. A unique moment in time that you may not have again.

In other words, God in His providence has given you unique opportunities to share Christ and don’t miss out on these opportunities. Take advantage of them. Don’t let them slip out of your fingers. Buy up this opportunity while supplies last!

Are you praying for lost people by name? Are you praying for opportunities to share? It’s amazing that once you begin to do this with some measure of consistency you actually have your eyes opened to the fact that God is actually answering your prayers and giving you a “kairos” moment to make the most of.

Thirdly, living a missional lifestyle involves gracing others with your words in order to truly care for lost people.

Our speech is to be always seasoned with salt so that what comes out of our mouths is grace- filled.

Read Matthew 5:13

Is your speech grace-filled? Are you speaking in ways that edify and encourage and show evidences of God’s grace in others or are you tearing down and backbiting and complaining and gossiping.

Read 1 Peter 3:15-16

Are you prepared to share the gospel since you have learned the truth?
Are you prayed up by spending time asking God to give you opportunities to share. Are you praying for boldness and clarity and grace-filled words? Are you aware and sensitive to the “kairos” moment God has put right in your lap.

If so, then think how much of a blessing it is to actually open your mouth and give an answer. You will be amazed at what comes out of your mouth and how the Holy Spirit has empowered you in that particular moment with that particular person to tell that particular message of the gospel.

In a disciple-making small group, we can pray for lost people, get the encouragement we need to walk through those open doors, engage in mission together by inviting people to church, and also by just doing life together.

Pray for open doors. Pray for “kairos” moments. Pray that God would in His providence bring people into your life that needs the gospel.

Dear Father,

You are always at work in your sovereignty. You are orchestrating events in my life and in the life of others to accomplish Your will. I pray for those “kairos” moments when You open doors. Grant me the boldness to share the gospel. Help me to give an answer to whoever asks me for the hope that I have. Help me to be intentional today in sharing my faith.

In Jesus Name,

Amen

DAY FORTY FIVE of 50-Day Spiritual Journey

We live in a culture that is increasingly becoming hostile or suspicious of Christianity. How do we build bridges and make relationships with lost people? How to we become more obedient in living a missional lifestyle?

Pray for open doors!

Read the following verses:

1 Corinthians 16:9

2 Corinthians 2:12

Colossians 4:3

These are the prayers we need to be praying. We need to be asking God in His sovereign providence to open doors for us to the gospel. And when He does open those doors, we need to have the spiritual eyes to see His work and then walk in obedience through those open doors.

Being a missional church is not a PROGRAM. It is a culture and an ethos that only God can create and it takes time. To truly be obedient in making disciples means that we have to be willing to face hardship, obstacles, spiritual warfare, and stubborn human hearts in order to truly live on mission.

Being missional is not a program. It is not an event we tack onto our already busy lives. Being missional is the way we live.

Here are 7 Easy Ways to Be Missional:

1. Eat with non-Christians. Make one of the meals that you eat a day with someone who is a non-believer. Go to lunch with a co-worker. Invite the neighbors over for dinner. (don’t’ think you have to cook—you can order pizza)

2. Be regular. Instead of hopping around at different gas stations or coffee shops, try to frequent the same places and build relationships through being a regular

3. Hobby with Non-Christians—pick a hobby that you can share like city league sports, any types of lessons or things that interest you and don’t do it as a consumeristic way to improve your life but see it as way to live on mission for Christ

4. Pray for and talk to your co-workers—view your workplace as not just the place where you do your job but the mission field where God has placed you to be on mission

5. Volunteer for non-profits—spend once a month doing something to improve our community. Many Christians live in sub-culture where they don’t see ourselves as God’s instruments to serve our cities

6. Participate in community events—go to fundraisers, festivals, clean-ups, and other events—and strike up conversations.

7. Serve your neighbors—mow, weed, shovel, fix a car, go by an apartment and ask if anybody needs help to improve things—just serve your neighbors

See these are not new classes or events or programs that will require more of your time to sit and soak. Many of us are sponges that have been receiving and receiving and now we need to be wrung out so that we can share what God has put in. These may be things you’re already doing.

But now your lenses are different. Instead of seeing these as self-centered ways to improve your life, view these as ways to live as missional people.

In a culture that is becoming more hostile to Christianity and very suspicious of Christians, we need to understand that living missionally as servants and being humble and actively loving others where God has placed us will go very far.

Which of these 7 on the list do you think you can incorporate into your life right away? Ask God to give you wisdom and open doors.

Father,

In your sovereignty You have placed me right where you want me to be—in my job, my school, my neighborhood, around my circle of friends. Please open doors of effective ministry for me to share the gospel and to live as a missionary. Help me to see that living as a missionary is not a program or a class but a lifestyle of being intentional. Grant me the grace to walk boldly through those open doors when You move in my life.

In Jesus Name,

Amen

DAY FORTY FOUR of 50-Day Spiritual Journey

The famous day was July 20th, 1969. Many of you may remember where you were when this happened. It was the day that the Apollo 11 landed on the surface of the moon. It was the first mission where a human being actually made a lunar landing. It was commanded by Neil Armstrong along with Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin. Armstrong and Aldrin landed in the Sea of Tranquility and became the first humans to ever walk on the moon. Just 9 years earlier President John F. Kennedy had a dream that by the end of the decade our nation would be the first to have someone land on the moon. This was a major victory for the US in the space race against Russia.

We can probably think of many famous missions in the history of the world. The first landing on the moon. D-Day—that massive mission of Allied troops which landed on the Normandy Coast in 1944 which signaled the eventual end of World War II. Or we think of the mission of Lewis and Clark who led the first expedition to the Pacific Coast in the early 1800’s. Or that famous mission in 1492 when Columbus discovered a whole new world in the Western Hemisphere.

Most of us resonate with a mission. We want to be part of something bigger than ourselves. We want the excitement and challenge of a mission. We like to watch our favorite sports team carry out a mission to win the championship. We may have a mission at our workplace that we are trying to accomplish.

As we grow to become more like Jesus, we have seen the importance of knowing and obeying the Word and also of practicing the gospel “one another’s”, but there is a another component to how a disciple-making small group will help you in your obedience to Christ.

A disciple: Tells the Gospel by living as a missionary

Read the following:

Mark 16:15

Luke 24:46-49

Acts 1:8

John 17:18

John 20:21

We have been sent on a mission to share the gospel in our workplace, in our schools, with our friends, in our neighborhoods, and wherever God has placed us.

In many Sunday School classes or Growth Groups, there is a high priority placed on Bible knowledge and relationship building and those are crucial, as we have seen. But often times, evangelism and missions are underemphasized and people aren’t challenged to see themselves as missioanries sent out into their spheres of influence to declare God’s gospel.

A disciple-making small group is a great context or environment to help and encourage you to be missional—to live as a missionary and to get involved in ministries or projects that advance the gospel.

What values make up a disciple-making small group that focuses on providing a context and encouragement for missional living?

A small group is never an island unto itself solely for the purpose of Bible study, but a community of gospel-centered people who together live on mission.  Through this avenue, believers can find creative ways to reach the community, evangelize the lost, support missions, and make disciples of all nations. Many groups can become insulated and narrowly focused on meeting the needs of the group instead of actively praying for and engaging the lost.  Missional living can manifest itself through a group doing a consistent mission project, evangelism training, outreach events, and seeking to invite new members to the group for the purpose of them hearing the gospel and experiencing gospel community.

Do you struggle with sharing your faith? Do you want an encouraging environment where others in this journey can help you live as a missionary?

Dear Jesus,

Thank you for the gospel that You commanded me to preach to all creation. You’ve given me the wonderful privilege of sharing Your message of hope and love with people who desperately need you. But most of the time, I’m scared, don’t know what to say, fear rejection, and frankly don’t make the most use of my time. Give me a passion for souls and a desire to share your gospel. Help me see the value of being connected to a disciple-making small group where others can encourage and help me in this area!

In Your Name,

Amen